The Progression Of A Breakup

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We get lots of generic advice when we break up. “You’ll get through it.” “You’re better off.” “Don’t worry, you’ll find the One.” But no one ever tells us how to get through the pain, the loneliness, the emptiness. Whether the breakup is mutual, shocking, brutal, or civil, it sucks.

So what do we do? Blast “I Will Survive” until our ears bleed? When will those yucky feelings go away? I think everyone has their own progression that they go through, similar to the five stages of grief. Here’s mine:

Disbelief and Denial

After my boyfriend of two years broke up with me, I was shocked. In hindsight, it was a long time coming. During the last turbulent months of our relationship, I knew we were heading down that road. He had moved away six weeks prior—a tell-tale sign of doom. But when it actually happened… well, I was shocked. It was a Sunday morning, and he had spent the weekend with me. When he left that morning, he left for good. I was a puddle. I sat in my room for three hours, knowing that once I walked out of there, I’d have to face my roommates and tell them what happened. I wasn’t ready for it to be real.


Six hours after the dumping, I made the tearful phone call begging Mr. Ex to take me back. Not one of my finer moments. I was a ball of desperate emotion. I needed to save us and wasn’t ready to accept all the valid reasons for the breakup.


For me, this was different than anger because I had someone to be mean to. Two weeks after the breakup, we had a wedding to attend together. For the sake of the wedding, we didn’t tell anyone about the breakup except for a few close friends. Mr. Ex and I sat next to each other during the entire ceremony and did everything possible not to touch each other. I knew it was going to be awful, so I resorted to spite. I made sure I looked amazing. Then, I left the reception early, casually letting him know that I was going dancing with a great guy I’d met. I wanted him to realize what a great catch I was and that I was no longer his.

Boing! Rebound!

I’d met the great guy right after I got dumped. He was nice and attentive, and he thought I was fabulous. Mr. Ex did not think I was fabulous. And I got to be spiteful to Mr. Ex. This way, I didn’t have to think about why we had broken up. I didn’t have to think about why Mr. Ex did not think I was fabulous. I didn’t have to think about Mr. Rebound. I was too busy spiting Mr. Ex and feeling good about myself.

Oops. After a few weeks with Mr. Rebound, I realized we did not have as much in common as we’d thought. I realized the only thing I really liked about him was that he liked me. So that ended.

Being Single

At this point, Mr. Ex and I were still on pretty hateful terms. Mutual friends were involved, and there were a myriad of details to sort after we dissolved our relationship. Therefore, he couldn’t just—”poof”—disappear from my life. Lots of phone calls and emails, all filled with hurt, anger, and tears on both sides. I was done. I couldn’t even watch a romantic comedy without thinking, “really? That seems like a lot of hassle.”

I decided it was time to take a step back. Away from boys and to spend some some with me. I needed to make plans without having to check with someone if we were free on Saturday night. I needed to feel fabulous about myself and not wait for Mr. Ex or Mr. Rebound to feel that way about me. I learned that if I didn’t feel that way about myself, Mr. Future certainly wouldn’t. I announced to myself that I didn’t want to date anyone for three months. Why three months? Well, it was the summer, and three months marked the end of the summer. What if I met someone great? Well, I wasn’t ready.

Ironically, during this period, I did actually meet Mr. Future. I thought to myself, “cute. But seems like a lot of hassle. Maybe later. Hopefully he’ll still be single.”


This phase ran concurrently through all the other phases. It ended when I realized that I was no longer filled with anger, hurt, longing, and loneliness over the breakup. I kept busy. Busy enough to avoid depression, but not so busy that I didn’t take the time for introspection. I figured out my own culpability in the breakup and learned to be okay with it. Oh, and getting busy with Mr. Rebound didn’t count as introspection.


The last thing I wanted was to be friends with Mr. Ex. I had spent a lot of time being angry at him. When I thought about our two years together, I was filled with bitterness and sadness. And I didn’t like that. I didn’t want my memories to be spoiled. So I had to get past my anger. I knew that we were better friends than lovers, and I didn’t want the memory of our friendship to be tainted by the ups and downs of our relationship. We never regained the friendship we had before we dated. But we became friends again.

Meeting Someone New

As luck would have it, after I reached my resolution, Mr. Future and I crossed paths again. And he was still single. I was finally ready, and all it took was me allowing the progression of the breakup to run its course.

So, to all those newly singles, perhaps that’s the best advice anyone can give: just give yourself time.

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  • Nice article. I know it’s all in the past, but it still made me want to rent some movies and come over with ice cream.

  • Lay off the sympathy, Katy. You have no idea how happily married (with an adorable baby and pet dog… and living in Italy) Jenn is now.

    We should all hate her. 😉

  • That is the best advice- Time. In tie, it will hurt less. In time you will meet someone new. But no one wants to hear “In Time.” They want “right now.” I have told friends that it once took me 7 years to get over a relationship. But surprise of all surprises, no one wanted to hear that sometimes it takes that much time. 3 months? Good for you!!

  • Jennifer Hamilton

    Jaz, it actually took longer than 3 months, it was just 3 months of no dating for me. I did realize once I was single (somewhere between Spiteful and Introspection) that I was happier without Mr. Ex. We’d been heading that way for so long I think that helped me get over it faster. But yeah, it’s like the weight loss plan no one wants to follow: diet and exercise. In this case, time is really the only solution.

    And Katy, that you for your sympathy. It totally sucked at the time! But yeah, happily married (to Mr. Future). Funny thing, the night I got dumped, I went out dancing, just to be with a different group of people who didn’t know Mr. Ex, and Dennis was there. Oh, Dennis is not Mr. Rebound…

  • Really? Wow, you hid it well. I still remember finding out that you had broken up with your boyfriend. Granted, I didn’t know you that well back then, but I had NO idea you were that messed up. Does this mean Mr. Rebound is someone I know–or used to know, anyway–from the dance scene?

    Whoa, it’s all coming together now. 😉

  • Good to know.

    Ooh. You should do an advice column on what friends/family should do when someone they know has been through a rough break up or divorce. I get stymied in that situation. I want to help, but I’m typically at a loss.

    I know ice cream isn’t always the answer.

  • Hey, that’s a great idea for an article. I think a new reader survey may be in order for this one. Thanks!

  • Olá! Tudo isso são experiências para a nossa vida.É uma preparação para algo melhor que virá. A caminahda é árdua. Mas quando chagamos no topo, concluímos que valeu a pena. Prepare-se para encontrar alguém que te satisfaça mais plenamente.

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